#Askingforafriend: Communication that connects us
By Kristin Wyse
GCU Office of Student Care
Arguments. Squabbles. Disputes. Fights. There are a lot of words in the English language that describe a very common occurrence within our relationships. Unfortunately, I think there are a lot of myths out there about what a “good” relationship and communication look like, one being that a person won’t experience conflict in good relationships.
However, all relationships involve misunderstandings and quarrels that typically lead us to feeling disconnected from others and experiencing inaccurate perceptions of what is happening – even in good, healthy relationships. The key that determines the success of a relationship is the ability to work through those misunderstandings and arguments with kind, caring and respectful communication.
What does that look like? Well, I’m going to propose some key areas of communication to help us resolve any tension-filled discussions that we may have. Before you do anything, take some time away from the person and/or situation to calm your emotions and identify these areas of your negative emotional experience:
- Identify those vulnerable emotions (hurt, sadness, loneliness, fear) that are underneath our defensive and protective emotions (anger, frustration, jealousy, anxiety). Remember that if we are communicating our defensive emotions, we most likely will receive defensive emotions back from the other person.
- Identify any thoughts and perceptions that come with those vulnerable emotions and then clarify their accuracy with yourself or others. Try to identify the externalized thoughts about others, but most importantly any internalized core shame messages about yourself that you experience.
- Identify your needs that are going unmet at this time and what the needs would look like to get met. Most of the time we think that others are supposed to just know what our needs are if they love us. Unfortunately, this thought promotes a lot of the misunderstanding and misperceptions in a relationship. Therefore, it is critical that we explicitly communicate what our needs are and how to meet them.
- Then communicate these three steps in your emotionally safe relationships with people who have earned your trust and vulnerability through their display of positive traits, such as being non-judgmental, kind and dependable. This will look something like this:
“When you told me that you couldn’t meet me for dinner the other night, I felt hurt and sad (vulnerable emotions) and started thinking that you may not want to spend time with me or that you may be upset with me (thoughts that may be inaccurate). This then led me to start thinking a common negative thought that I wasn’t important enough (internal shame message). What I know I’m really needing is some time to connect with you because I miss our times together (need for connection). Is there another time we can schedule to talk and catch up (how need is met) with each other?”
Following these steps can help us resolve any dissent or tension in a relationship and, as a result create a stronger connection within the relationship. Happy communicating!